Jeff Francoeur’s excursion to Dallas to work with Rudy Jaramillo, the hitting coach of the Texas Rangers, raised eyebrows and raised Terry Pendleton’s hackles. But how about this? Chipper Jones helps a former Brave with his toe-tap and the former Brave winds up — not to go all Munson on you here — kicking his old team in the gut with a steel-toed work boot.
Nick Green hit a home run off Jeff Bennett to beat the Braves in the ninth inning Sunday. You know that already. But on Saturday Daniel Barbarisi of the Providence Journal described how Green, who came up in the Braves’ farm system and played here in 2004 before being traded to Tampa Bay for Jorge Sosa in 2005, worked out over the winter with Jones and Brian McCann and Francoeur and former Brave Mark DeRosa.
Green noticed three of them — Francoeur being the exception — tapped their front toe before swinging, so as to keep their weight on the back foot. Barbarisi quoted Chipper thusly: “Just think of it as throwing a punch. You get [angry] at some guy, you’re not going to just stand shoulder-to-shoulder and throw a punch. You’re going to draw everything back, and try to get as much into it as you can. Same thing with a baseball.
“When I was young, I used to get out on my front foot. I used to bail a little bit. And my dad said, take the toe tap to overexaggerate and get everything on your back side. Get your foot down, and then explode into the baseball. It’s worked for me.”
At the time, Green was looking for work. He’d bounced from Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh to Seattle to the Yankees without settling, and he spent the 2008 season in Class AAA. From Barbarisi’s story, here’s Jones again: “We brought him in [to the workouts] because he was a former teammate, and he came in, he worked just as hard as any of us this offseason. I felt like if he got the chance to play every day that he would produce … I never dreamed he would be playing shortstop for the Boston Red Sox here in the middle of June, but here he is.”
Green signed a minor-league contract with Boston in January. He’s playing because starting shortstop Jed Lowrie is hurt, and the toe-tap he learned from his buddies has helped him hit .293. And on Sunday he bent the 15th homer of his big-league career around the Pesky Pole to beat the team that raised him.
But before you say, “Thanks a lot, Chipper” … be advised that this stuff happens all the time in professional sports. Players help pals, and because guys are forever changing teams, today’s pupil could be tomorrow’s nemesis. It’s the nature of the business.
And it wasn’t as if Nick Green had never hit a walk-off homer before. As Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe noted, he did it as a Brave on July 2, 2004. He did it against the Boston Red Sox.